BUBLÉ’S BAT­TLE

Michael Bublé was em­bar­rassed to dis­cover just how ego­tis­ti­cal he’d be­come as he nursed his boy Noah back to health. Now he’s got his mojo back, he tells Chrissy Iley

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS -

In an in­cred­i­bly re­veal­ing in­ter­view, the singer de­scribes how his son’s cancer di­ag­no­sis has left him a changed man

Michael Bublé knows bet­ter than most that fate does not stand aside and wave the fa­mous through. The Cana­dian singer has won four Gram­mys and sold 75 mil­lion records, earn­ing him some £35 mil­lion a year. He’s been mar­ried to stun­ning Ar­gen­tinian model and ac­tress Luisana Lopi­lato for seven years, and the cou­ple live a life of lux­ury with their three chil­dren, sons Noah, five, and Elias, two, and daugh­ter Vida Am­ber Betty, who’s just 11 weeks old. Yet all of this seemed mean­ing­less when Noah was di­ag­nosed with liver cancer two years ago, and the dev­as­tated cou­ple im­me­di­ately an­nounced they were putting their ca­reers on hold to care for their son.

Noah has now been de­clared can­cer­free and to­day Michael is look­ing suave and slim when we meet in his Lon­don ho­tel suite. He has a new al­bum out, Love – but it’s one that he ad­mits now might never have been made. He’s very emo­tional. His brown eyes well up at the mere men­tion of the C word, and it’s clear he’s still liv­ing in the shadow o f wh a t he de­scribes as two years of hell. ‘You just want to die,’ he says. ‘I don’t even know how I was breath­ing. My wife was the same and even though I was the stronger of the two of us, I wasn’t strong. My wife was... I’m sorry, I can’t make it to the end of the sen­tence... let’s just say we find out who we are with these things. Go­ing through this with Noah, I didn’t ques­tion who I was, I just ques­tioned ev­ery­thing else. Why are we here? Is this all there is? Be­cause if this is all there is, there has to be some­thing big­ger.’

He says that one way he got through it was to pre­tend he was Roberto Benigni’s char­ac­ter from Life Is Beau­ti­ful. The 1997 film was set in a con­cen­tra­tion camp and the way Benigni’s char­ac­ter, Guido, and his son coped was to make a joke of ev­ery­thing. ‘I don’t know if that was a choice, but that’s who I be­came,’ he says. ‘For in­stance, I never called it the hos­pi­tal, I called it the fun ho­tel. And ev­ery day I got ex­tra bed­sheets and I’d build a tent for Noah. I just made the best of it. Sur­vival.

‘It’s been such a dif­fi­cult ex­er­cise. It hurts me, and it hurts to talk about Noah be­cause it’s not my story to tell, it’s his. But my whole be­ing’s changed. My per­cep­tion of life. I don’t know if I can even get through this con­ver­sa­tion with­out cry­ing. And I’ve never lost con­trol of my emo­tions in pub­lic.’

Michael likes to be in con­trol and doesn’t feel com­fort­able cry­ing. His he­roes are the macho singers of the 50s and 60s like Frank Si­na­tra and Bobby Darin. As a teenager he’d take his bi­ble to bed, pray­ing that one day he’d em­u­late them. ‘In a weird way talk­ing about it is ther­apy for me,’ he says. ‘I ac­tu­ally thought I’d never come back to the mu­sic busi­ness. I never fell out of love with mu­sic, I just needed to put it aside. What was hard was go­ing to the store to buy hot dogs and toi­let pa­per, go­ing to the gas sta­tion. Go­ing for a walk by the sea to clear my head. Ev­ery­one recog­nises me and says, “How’s your son?” When you think you’re close to get­ting over it you’re sucked right back into it. But at the same time I was given faith in hu­man­ity. The me­dia helped me, they weren’t dis­re­spect­ful. And in those two years my record com­pany never asked me what the plan was. They said, “We love you and we’re pray­ing for you.”’

I was all set to in­ter­view Michael not long af­ter Noah was di­ag­nosed, as he was due to host the 2017 Brit Awards, but the in­ter­view was can­celled when he pulled out. ‘I had no in­ter­est in my ca­reer and I’m grate­ful I could af­ford to take time out,’ he says. ‘I spent a good deal of time with peo­ple who weren’t so lucky. When this ter­ri­ble news came in I re­alised I wasn’t hav­ing fun in the mu­sic busi­ness. I’d lost the joy and at some point just be­fore the Brits I was start­ing to lose the plot. I’d be­come des­per­ate to hold onto some­thing I thought I might be los­ing, and I thought I had to do some­thing spe­cial to keep it. I’d started to do things out of my com­fort zone, like pre­sent­ing, and the truth is it had been a while since I’d been hav­ing fun. I’d started to worry about ticket sales for my tours, what the crit­ics said, what the per­cep­tion of me might be.’

He grabs the net voile from be­hind the cur­tain and puts it over his face. ‘I felt like I was liv­ing with this over my face and the re­al­ity I was see­ing was blurred by it. But the di­ag­no­sis made me re­alise how stupid I’d been to wor ry about these unim­por­tant things. I was em­bar­rassed by my ego, that it had al­lowed this in­se­cu­rity. And I de­cided I’d never read my name again in print, never read a re­view, and I never have. I de­cided I’d never use so­cial me­dia again, and I never have.

‘I re­alised that for many years I

‘I don’t know if I can get through this with­out cry­ing’

couldn’t believe I was on the same stage as my he­roes, that I was shar­ing a mi­cro­phone with Tony Ben­nett or [Cana­dian pi­anist and singer] Diana Krall. I couldn’t believe I was look­ing across at some­one like Paul McCartney, and I’d be say­ing things like, “It’s hard to get here, but my God it’s harder to stay here.” But then I woke up and thought, “Af­ter ten years of try­ing to get here and five years of be­ing scared it would go away, I think I can en­joy it.”’

It seems that his son’s ill­ness ig­nited this re­al­i­sa­tion that he’d be­come fix­ated on his own suc­cess. ‘I don’t have the stom­ach for it any more,’ he says. ‘The celebrity nar­cis­sism. I started to crum­ble. But then I started to won­der why I wanted to do this in the first place. I’d for­got­ten that it’s about souls con­nect­ing, be­cause I’d be­come so anx­ious. There were peo­ple in my busi­ness life say­ing, “If you hadn’t done this or that, or you’d writ­ten a bet­ter song, tick­ets might be sell­ing quicker.” I started to take all that on board. No one wanted to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity. It was much eas­ier for peo­ple to pass the buck to me be­cause I was in­se­cure enough al­ready. I would digest it and say, “It’s my fault. I’m ab­so­lutely rub­bish.” It af­fected me and I started to think, “It’s all go­ing to go. I’m go­ing to lose ev­ery­thing.”

‘I was in­se­cure. I’d been learn­ing from my he­roes for so many years, but even though I was learn­ing with pas­sion I was afraid I’d be­come a mere poor-qual­ity pho­to­copy of my he­roes. But when I came back from this ter­ri­ble time I re­alised I’m not a mere pho­to­copy. I’ve learned ev­ery­thing I can from them, taken it and found it in my own soul, my own voice, my own style and now no critic can take that away. It needed clar­i­fy­ing. Now I’m just singing the mu­sic I love. Maybe when you let go, maybe that’s when it comes back to you. Like love.’

Michael is over­joyed that he has a fam­ily of five now. Ev­ery­thing changed for him when his three-year re­la­tion­ship with his for­mer girl­friend, the Golden Globe-nom­i­nated Devil Wears Prada ac­tress Emily Blunt, fell apart. He blamed him­self for the break-up and went into ther­apy. He bought self­help books, read­dressed his eat­ing habits (he has a ten­dency to put on weight if he isn’t care­ful) and started go­ing to the gym. He was still get­ting over Emily when he spot­ted Luisana af­ter per­form­ing a show in Buenos Aires. They met again at a party and he told her, ‘You’re my wife, you just don’t know it yet. I’m go­ing to come back and marry you.’ A year went by with them ex­chang­ing emails, and as he told me when we last met in 2011, ‘I was mad crazy for her. I went and asked her fa­ther’s per­mis­sion to marry her and we had a big, beau­ti­ful wed­ding.’

When he learned Noah was in re­mis­sion, the joy re­turned to Michael’s world. Is that when the urge to make mu­sic again hit him? ‘The two are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked, yet it wasn’t as straight­for­ward as, “My son’s re­cov­ered, I should make an al­bum,”’ he ex­plains. ‘I’d told my man­ager I wanted to take a ten-year sab­bat­i­cal, so I could hang out and be bad. But I missed the guys in my band. So once when Luisana had to go back to Ar­gentina I said to them, “Come over to the house, let’s drink, or­der pizza, play video games and jam.” They came over, we par­tied and we said, “Let’s play some mu­sic.” I thought, “Wow! This is fun.”’

He takes out his phone and shows me videos of his friends jam­ming in his house, play­ing the var­i­ous songs that ended up be­ing the new al­bum. ‘It was then that I re­alised I’d missed mak­ing mu­sic. I didn’t even know I’d missed it. This was about a year ago.’

He’s start­ing to perk up now, and when his spir­its lift he laughs eas­ily and likes to make ev­ery­one around him laugh. As we chat he flits be­tween ac­cents – we go from Liver­pool to Texas via In­dia and South Africa, and fi­nally to his ver­sion of a Lon­don ac­cent, which he says he loves. He’s been work­ing with James Cor­den on a Car­pool Karaoke spe­cial for the Stand Up To Cancer fundrais­ing cam­paign and likes the way Cor­den speaks. ‘ We watch The Gruf­falo movie about five times a day be­cause my kids love it, and James Cor­den is the voice of the lit­tle brown mouse, so he’s in my house “all the day”, as my lit­tle boy would say.’

He pauses. ‘There are three rea­sons I wanted to do this al­bum,’ he says. ‘One, be­cause I felt a debt of grat­i­tude, deeper than I can ex­plain, to the mil­lions of peo­ple all over the world who prayed for us and showed us com­pas­sion. That gave me faith in hu­man­ity. Two, be­cause I love mu­sic and feel I can con­tinue the legacy of my idols. And three, be­cause if the world was end­ing – not just my own per­sonal hell but watch­ing the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil in Amer­ica and watch­ing Europe break up – there’s never a bet­ter time for mu­sic.’

Then sud­denly he stops. ‘This is my last in­ter­view,’ he says quite solemnly. ‘I’m re­tir­ing from the busi­ness. I’ve made the per­fect record and now I can leave at the very top.’

Some­how, though, I don’t think he re­ally means it.

Michael’s al­bum Love will be re­leased on 16 Novem­ber. To make a do­na­tion to Stand Up To Cancer, please visit chan­nel4.com/su2c.

‘I can’t do the celebrity nar­cis­sism any more’

With his wife Luisana Lopi­lato

Michael with son Noah in 2015, the year be­fore he fell ill

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